#3 What’s The Story?

It’s hard to pin down a specific conflict in the issue of overall school climate for the LGBTQ+ community because in large part the problem is created by microaggressions, tiny comments and actions that added together comprise a subtle but all too real alienation of queer youth. Many times these microaggressions stem not from malice but rather from ignorance. A conflict by definition is not tiny, is much larger and much simpler than a complex compilation of minuscule wrongs. These wrongs are both more and less than a conflict. They are a problem.

The most prominent group in queer student advocacy is GLSEN, or Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network. According to their mission statement they, “want every student, in every school, to be valued and treated with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. We believe that all students deserve a safe and affirming school environment where they can learn and grow”. They have been and are involved with numerous policy battles as discriminatory legislation has been gradually dismantled. Additionally, they provide an extensive array of resources for those seeking to improve their school’s climates in the interest of queer students. Unfortunately, there remain groups that seek to counter these efforts. These groups include Focus on the Family, a Christian organization that holds a yearly “Day of Dialogue”, a direct response to GLSEN’s “Day of Silence” which seeks to call attention to bullying experienced by LGBTQ+ youth. Even this does not constitute a conflict, though, since the Day of Dialogue is still just another glorified microaggression. Its advertising doesn’t mention homosexuality at all, only referring vaguely to God’s plans for relationships between people.

GLSEN’s perspective that for the most part school climates in the United States are not supportive of queer students is supported by extensive evidence. For example, 51% of these students have heard teachers making homophobic remarks and 64.5% have experienced peers using homophobic slurs. Furthermore, only 18.5% of LGBT students reported being taught queer inclusive curriculum that covered significant LGBT people and history despite the fact that when this curriculum is incorporated there are marked decreases in harassment of queer students. Other benefits include an increased interest on the part of these students in studying science, technology, engineering, math, or social science in college. There are evidently defined ideas for GLSEN and its supporters to unite around in pursuit of elevated academic experiences for all students. Focus on the Family’s perspective is difficult to pinpoint thanks to their nebulous language and refusal to cite any evidence but it can be broadly defined as baselessly anti-gay. Thanks to this equivocating, it is unclear what ideas its supporters are uniting around. What divides the two groups is consequently also ambiguous, further delineating this particular issue from a conflict.

My most pressing questions at this point are all related to the specific experiences of queer students in Vermont. It is easy to find national information on discrimination against us but much of what is about specific states online focuses on those with the most egregious legislation such as Utah. My own experiences in school have shown that Vermont is far from perfect in regards to respect for LGBT youth in academic settings but I think I will have to actually speak with those people to get tangible information.

 

Featured image by me

Ford, Zack. “Over Half Of LGBT Students Feel Unsafe At School, Report Shows.”ThinkProgress, WordPress, 22 Oct. 2014, thinkprogress.org/over-half-of-lgbt-students-feel-unsafe-at-school-report-shows-22d6fdc52b98/.

Ford, Zack. “’Day Of Dialogue’: Focus On The Family’s Sugarcoated Attempt To Promote Ex-Gay Therapy In Schools.” ThinkProgress, WordPress, 28 May 2014, thinkprogress.org/day-of-dialogue-focus-on-the-family-s-sugarcoated-attempt-to-promote-ex-gay-therapy-in-schools-e0edb1c6955/.

“Improving Education, Creating a Better World.” GLSEN, www.glsen.org/learn/about-glsen

Phaedra Miller

6 Responses to “#3 What’s The Story?

  • Phaedra,

    This is a really thoughtful post that does a good job digging into the issue. In terms of locating resources about Vermont, I wonder if you have looked through the data collected by the YRBS survey? Here is the link: http://www.healthvermont.gov/health-statistics-vital-records/population-health-surveys-data/youth-risk-behavior-survey-yrbs. It will likely take some digging, but I think some of the questions get at school culture and climate as well as sexual behaviors. I also wonder if Outright Vermont might be a source of more Vermont specific information that would be useful to you.

    Finally, I really like the featured image.

    Erik

    • Thank you for the resources; I had actually considered looking at the youth risk behavior survey but I had struggled to locate it because I couldn’t recall its name so that link will be very useful to me! I should be able to look into Outright fairly easily since my friend’s mom worked in it until fairly recently. Thanks again!
      – Phaedra

  • Hi Phaedra! I really liked your post and the way you tried to get to the bottom of the conflict. I also thought it was very powerful to read the different statistics you cited. I was especially surprised, and horrified, by the fact that 51% of queer students have heard teachers making homophobic remarks. I couldn’t believe that so many adults, especially adults who are supposed to be role models, would make such horrible comments. I wonder if teacher remarks encourage or inspire similar student behavior. My school does a Day of Silence once a year, and PRISM, the gender and sexuality alliance, gives out free tee-shirts for anyone who participates. I am always struck by how many students are wearing the shirts, and I’m always disappointed by how people wearing them choose only to be silent in class but talk with their friends at lunch and in the halls. I wonder how this day can changed to really address the issues that face LGBTQ+ youth. I am excited to keep reading your engaging blog posts!

    • I obviously don’t know your sexuality but if you’re straight please don’t use the word “queer”. It’s a fantastic umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community but, unfortunately, it’s a slur so right now my community is reclaiming it. I totally understand that it’s not being used maliciously and it’s an easy mistake to make so no worries, just if you are not queer please don’t use it again. If you are you can clearly ignore this!
      I like your thoughts on Day of Silence! I personally don’t find it super effective but haven’t really thought deeply about how it could be modified so it’s great to have some input!

  • Hi Phaedra!
    I found your post really interesting. It’s really informative, and I like how you’re showing how evident this issue is, not just nationwide, but all the way down to your school. I think you really have a great balance between national and local aspects of your issue, and connect the two really well. I feel that another very strong aspect of your post was how thoroughly you check your sources. You just don’t check to make sure they’re trustworthy and cite them, you use their message in your writing to empower your argument. I’m really excited to see what you write next, and how you further your research on LGBT youth’s education in Vermont!

    -Evan

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